EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Four decades after they emerged as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in the past that he would make foreign policy “in line with what my nation demands,” highlighting the Islamist sensitivities of his voter base. He will now add nationalist sensitivities to that foreign policy calculus. This will likely mean confrontations with nations both inside and outside Turkey’s region.
Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths. The voters asserted the unchallenged popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the longest-serving Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. They welcomed an infant center-right party, IYI (“good” in Turkish); recognized the country’s Kurds as a legitimate political force; and gave a cautious nod to an emerging social democrat politician, Muharrem Ince, Erdoğan’s closest presidential rival.
More strategically, Election 2018 marked the official birth of an Islamist-nationalist alliance that will recalibrate Turkey’s foreign policy calculus in line with the strong wave of religious/nativist nationalism that brought this alliance to power.